Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Korea 2012 - Dominant show for Red Bull in Mokpo - Vettel takes the lead as Red Bull display some serious pace

Published by Christine

Vettel and Webber chat post race in Korea
Credit: Mason/Getty

The Korean GP was very similar to the previous outing in Japan - a race that was tame by 2012 standards, but had enough individual moments to keep it interesting.

From Red Bull’s domination, to Kamui Kobayashi’s fall from grace, the race began with a bang and ended with a whimper - and it was Sebastian Vettel who took the spoils.

Red Bull

Going into this race, I think everyone was anticipating another strong performance from Red Bull and it was no surprise to find Sebastian Vettel taking his third victory in a row. The team have got the car to their liking, the momentum is with them, and they are into a sequence of circuits that suit them.

It was something of a surprise to see Vettel miss out on pole position to his teammate on Saturday in Korea, and his message on the radio accusing “why didn’t you tell me about Massa?” gave us a slight hint of the frustrated and perhaps even precious Vettel we have seen before. When he doesn’t get it all his own way, things can kick off. In the end, it made no difference. Mark Webber couldn’t move the Red Bull off the line fast enough, and you’d have to assume that if he did get into the lead, at one point he would have had to move aside.

It was also worth noting the constant messages to Vettel towards the end of the race about his tyres, showing a nervous side to the team, and a tendency to make a drama out of things that seem okay. Red Bull are leaving Korea on a high with a 1-2 finish, but although they are now leading both championships, team principal Christian Horner isn’t going to let them coast to the end of the year.



This weekend was both good and bad for Ferrari. It was the moment when the driver’s championship tipped away from their star in favour of Red Bull, but it was also the race where they managed to jump McLaren to second place in the constructor’s. Felipe Massa has finally wrestled the F2012 to meet his driving style halfway, and the Brazilian started on the grid sixth and finished the race in fourth.

He was instructed to maintain the gap to the driver in front, that being Fernando Alonso, who had qualified in fourth place and was struggling to keep hold of a potential podium position. Where other teams have now improved, the Ferrari is starting to show its weakness, with Alonso never able to challenge for anything more than third. He’s trying to remain optimistic and has declared these last few races a “mini championship”, which is essentially his way of saying they’re back to where they began - as if these weeks of being on a title high are well and truly over.

Having both drivers able to produce the goods will help Ferrari no end, and now they are aware of the wind tunnel problems they’ve been having, improvements may not be far away. But it could still be too late to save the 2012 championship.



All eyes were on Romain Grosjean as the drivers pulled to a halt after their formation lap, waiting for the lights to go out and the race to begin. After too many first lap accidents to count, a one race ban, plus another incident just seven days earlier, the pressure was on. Thankfully for the Frenchman (and for everyone around him), it was a clean start for the Lotus and he went on to finish the race seventh.

Kimi Räikkönen also picked up a good points haul for the team, starting and finishing the race in sixth place. The double results finish, and McLaren’s difficult weekend, have allowed Lotus to move closer towards the battle in front of them. There are just 29 points between Lotus and the Woking outfit now, and there could be some interesting fights between the two teams over the next few races.

Lotus brought the new Coandă effect exhaust to Korea, with Kimi testing it out in practice. They liked the results and kept it on for the race itself, and thus there could be more to come from the car towards the end of the season, as they tweak the updates to their maximum potential.


Force India

Once again, Force India have their own off-track problems to think about, but the drivers concentrated on the job in hand to bring home as many points as possible. Paul di Resta wasn’t feeling very confident ahead of qualifying, after finding the car had poor pace in final practice. As it turns out, his prediction was spot on - he lined up on the grid 14th, compared to his teammates 8th place.

Nico Hülkenberg was having a much better weekend, getting past both Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton in the race to take sixth place. Both Force India drivers were scrapping for position throughout the race weekend, far more coverage than they’ve had in recent weeks, and it left them with a reasonable points haul by race end. They managed to close the gap to Sauber a little, but the respective pace of the two cars would suggest the gap will be nigh on impossible to overhaul completely.


Toro Rosso

On Saturday evening, it looked as though Toro Rosso were going to have another one of their weekends spent scrabbling in the midfield. Jean-Éric Vergne managed to get out of the first session of qualifying, but only by the skin of his teeth. He made it to 16th on the grid, which ended up being in front of teammate Daniel Ricciardo due to a gearbox-related penalty.

Sunday turned out to be much brighter for both drivers, with Jean-Éric Vergne proclaiming this to be his best drive in F1 so far. From 16th to 8th, Vergne made the most of a couple of retirements and a few more overtaking opportunities. Ricciardo did exactly the same, and finished directly behind his teammate in 9th place. The car looked on fine form, and both drivers were in control as they fought through to a double points finish.

The team are happy with the momentum they’ve picked up recently, with Franz Tost hailing their third points finish in the last four races. He also pointed out that this weekend matches their season best performance in Spa.



The impending split in the McLaren team is starting to show, with strained relations all round, but they are trying to keep a lid on it for now. If the team had wanted to put more favour in Jenson Button this weekend, they were not able to do so. The Brit missed out on the top ten shootout, possibly due to the yellow flags that were brought out at the end of Q2, and possibly because the car was lacking in pace.

Although, Lewis Hamilton managed to get all the way through to be best of the rest, lining up third place on the grid, behind two Red Bulls. As the race began, he surged forward but was held up by the lagging Webber, and from there it was only a journey backwards. After the race, the team attributed the lack of pace to a roll-bar failure, but there was also the unfortunate moment where he picked up some stray astro-turf!

Hamilton picked up a single point by clinging on to tenth place, which was scant consolation for the team as Jenson Button had been knocked out on the first lap. Rather than Grosjean being the cause for concern at the start, drivers should have been watching out for Kamui Kobayashi, who managed to pinball past Button and Nico Rosberg knocking both out of the race, and eventually causing his own retirement as well. Not a weekend to remember.



From the emotional highs of Kobayashi’s home-race podium in Japan came the frustration of a first lap incident, a drive through penalty and subsequent retirement. The Sauber team weren’t confident going into the race weekend anyway, with plenty of concern about the tyres and the pace of the car on the difficult track surface.

They had a poor qualifying, which they attribute to the yellow flag situation towards the end of Q2, although they weren’t looking particularly strong before that. Pérez lined up on the grid 12th, with Kobayashi 13th.

The Japanese driver’s first race incident was embarrassing, but he later admitted that it was his fault and apologised to the drivers that were knocked out as a result. It would have been less disappointing if Pérez could have surged forward at all during the race, but he finished 11th, just missing out on points. There were a few overtaking moves, but a pit stop problem lost him four seconds and messed up the strategy. It’s a rollercoaster with this team at the moment, but if this week has been bad then perhaps the next race will be slightly better.



With Sauber targeting them in the constructor’s championship, the pressure is on Mercedes to keep the pace up. Unfortunately for them, they seem to be drifting towards the end of the season without much in the way of momentum. Both drivers got through to the third session of qualifying, with Rosberg ahead of Schumacher, but they were ninth and tenth, with no real sign of making it further up the grid.

Rosberg was forced to retire from the race after the aforementioned first lap crash with Kamui Kobayashi, whilst Michael Schumacher got through the first few corners unscathed. It wasn’t an easy afternoon, however, the tyres weren’t working as the team expected, and they struggled to keep the temperatures up. All things considered, it was a weekend to forget, with the only consolation being that Sauber didn’t score any points either - so the gap between the two is maintained for another week or two.



With Pastor Maldonado’s recent calm behaviour, and a new crash-King taking his place, the Williams team haven’t been making headlines as much as they did earlier in the season. Pastor has been known to put in an incredible qualifying performance, concentrating on one-lap pace, but this weekend in Korea didn’t see that come to fruition.

Bruno Senna was the driver that dropped out of qualifying along with the three expected teams, and he blamed it on a lack of practice. He had to sit out one practice session due to trouble with the car, but he also had to sit out a session to make room for Bottas. The frustration of these one-sided substitutions is starting to show.

The Williams duo lined up on the grid 15th and 17th, and during the race, they made it up to 14th and 15th, mostly as others retired behind them. Maldonado points at them being too hard on the tyres early in the race, on heavy fuel, but there is no real specific reason Williams were struggling this weekend, and it’s important they try and turn this around so as not to be left behind.



Caterham’s mission for the final few races of the year is to get back up to 12th place and nab back their tenth place position in the constructor’s championship. Unfortunately, anonymous race weekends like this one will not help their cause.

Qualifying went Vitaly Petrov’s way, with the Russian saying he was very happy with the lap he put in and the balance on the car. Kovalainen, meanwhile, couldn’t find a setup he was happy with at all. Their 19th and 20th grid positions translated into 16th and 17th place in the race, with Petrov still ahead. A reasonable afternoon but nothing spectacular as both drivers made it a priority to look after their tyres rather than push all out for overtaking.



Charles Pic was the first driver this year to have an engine change penalty, using up his ninth power plant of the season. The ten place grid penalty didn’t affect them too much - he qualified 21st, just ahead of Timo Glock in 22nd. You wouldn’t have thought Marussia were pushing their engines to the limit, as far down the grid as they are, but then again they are still using Cosworth which may explain something about the number Pic has gone through!

In the race, both drivers had their eyes on the Caterhams, but it was only Glock who could remain in contention with them. He had a good battle to keep with them despite constant blue flag interruptions, but as ever, it’s a fight that we just don’t get to see much of on TV.



Narain Karthikeyan got his weekend off to a terrifying start after spinning out of qualifying at high speed when his brake discs failed. He was happy enough to post pictures of the broken components online, though! He didn’t set a time in qualifying itself, but the FIA gave him dispensation to start the race anyway.

On Sunday, the bad luck fell to the other side of the garage when Pedro de la Rosa was forced to retire after just 17 laps. The throttle pedal was causing a problem, and it was gradually getting worse. The team opted to bring the Spaniard in rather than leave him out there for something dangerous to happen. Karthikeyan went on to finish 20th.


All content in the series South Korea 2012